When times are tough – or when customers believe that tough times are round the corner – the way you offer to finance your solutions becomes critical to securing sales. In my previous columns, I have frequently alluded to the old-fashioned attitude that point-of-sale finance is sometimes viewed as an ‘eleventh hour’ last resort only to be used when affordability obstacles rear their ugly head. But it has never been more important to talk to customers about their financial requirements from the earliest possible stage in the sale.
The most usual scenario is that those resellers who sell using finance will have a preferred finance provider, to whom they introduce the customer – hopefully at the beginning of a sale – and then leave them to deal direct. But in some cases, it is undeniable that customers may not want a third-party financier to be involved. It is certainly true that a ‘one-stop shop’ approach – where resellers provide the solutions and the financing – is a compelling proposition for time-pressured customers. Where this is the case, the major ICT service providers either create their own (captive) finance arm that is funded from their balance sheet (IBM, for instance), or they white-label the offering of an existing financier – SAP, BT and HP are good examples. Whilst the former option is often beyond the means of all but the very largest global players, white-labelling is suitable for any size of company.
Financiers can guide channel players in defining precisely how this arrangement would work – from branding documents to setting up a finance company in the resellers name – but it is far less complex than one might imagine. Taking the example of SAP, we have worked with them since 2005 to operate “SAP Financing”, providing specialist financing solutions for SAP customers. The concept is simple: the programme is designed for all kinds of industry sectors and sizes of businesses, and provides a tailored financing solution to covers all elements of a solution – hardware, software, customisation, implementation, training and even first-year maintenance.
White-labelling a finance solution through the channel is a tried and trusted technique to simplify an enterprise-sized sale and build a close customer relationship. As the channel faces the prospect of increasingly cautious clients, any approach which can differentiate a reseller from its peers has to be worth considering – particularly given the success stories evident in the marketplace.
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